Chapter 6 - Student Life - Recent Developments
The Division of Student Affairs administers the range of services and activities that Shippensburg University provides for its students beyond the classroom in support of the institution's primary commitment to learning and personal development. During the past five years, the division has concentrated its efforts on three overall goals to implement this commitment-the expansion of multicultural activities and the encouragement of a climate of understanding and diversity, the promotion of a wide array of opportunities for students to engage in campus activities that will assist social and ethical development, and the enhancement of educational and other appropriate programming in the university residence halls. In pursuit of these goals and of aims related to their implementation, each department in the division develops annual objectives as part of the program planning process that applies to all units at the university. At the end of the academic year, the accomplishment of these objectives is assessed in conversations with the Vice President for Student Affairs. In addition, departmental efforts are reviewed every five years by procedures consistent with those of academic units of the university.
The effectiveness of the division's programs in reaching its goals may also be measured by the results of regionally and nationally-normed attitudinal surveys recently administered to Shippensburg students. In the areas of multiculturalism and diversity, 77 percent of the students, or seven percent greater than the national average, reported in the College Student Experience Questionnaire (CSEQ) in 1996 that they had made substantial progress toward an understanding and appreciation of other people while at Shippensburg. This perception was supported by responses in the 1996 State System Assessment of Student Satisfaction (SSASS) that indicated over 96 percent of Shippensburg students either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that they had associated with persons from diverse backgrounds during their college experience. Over 95 percent of respondents to the SSASS said that providing appropriate co-curricular activities was important or somewhat important to them, and almost 80 percent believed that the university was doing an excellent or good job in providing these opportunities. On the CSEQ, 19 percent of Shippensburg students reported that they often worked in one or more organizations, and over 28 percent indicated that they attended campus meetings outside of classes. Both of these figures were significantly higher than national norms. Sixty-five percent of students-four percent greater than the mean-said in the CSEQ that they had made substantial progress toward developing their own values and ethical standards.
In addition, the composite results of the regional and national surveys clearly showed a general satisfaction among Shippensburg students with the social and support services of the university in other ways. Reported strengths included the senses of connection and belonging felt by respondents while attending the institution. They also reported that the campus life and climate, the student-centeredness of the university and their own concern for the individuals around them were of greater importance to them than was typical among students in the national samples. Only in a few areas did Shippensburg students express some dissatisfaction with services within the Student Affairs division. The timing and adequacy of financial aid awards scored somewhat below the national mean, as did the availability of weekend activities and the acceptability of the student health center.
The favorable perception of students with the division is reflected in the record of its departments over the last five years. There are eleven departments within the division, each supervised by the Vice President for Student Affairs, who is a member of the Executive Management Team. The Office of the Vice President has undergone some recent shifts. In 1995, the long-time and highly respected vice president, C. Robert Orndorff, retired after over 30 years at the university. He was, however, replaced by an individual, G.F. "Jody" Harpster, who shared his outlook and goals, a transition that led to a stable exchange of leadership without disruption within the division or to its directions and aims. The new vice president has continued his predecessor's commitment to a student-centered campus, and this is evident in a variety of ways. Undergraduate and graduate representatives are included in all of the major governance committees at the institution and most other groups, whether mandated or not. The vice president and the president of the university maintain regular "walk-in" hours for students and visit residence halls each month to solicit student views and to provide direct access for groups and individuals. In addition, the vice president serves as the advisor to the Student Senate, which holds sessions biweekly, and meets regularly with the Student Association president. He also sits monthly with an advisory council that consists of representatives from each major club on campus as well as the officers of the Student Association.
Multicultural Student Affairs
In keeping with the goals of the division, the Office of the Vice President has assigned significant resources to provide expanded multicultural activities at the university. The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs coordinates these resources and has a director and a staff that includes a secretary, graduate assistants and undergraduate volunteers. Known as the Office of Minority Student Affairs until 1994, this office supervises the African American, Latino, Asian, and Jewish Student Organizations as well as the Students Advocating Lifestyle Equality, a gay, lesbian and bisexual group. The aims of the office are to promote retention and leadership skills and to support programs designed to foster and build an inclusive environment for all students at the university.
Toward this end, the office provides many successful programs. Special days and months are reserved for activities associated with different groups, such as Kwanzaa, Latin Heritage Month and Diversity Day, and publications, such as the newsletter, The Voice, published by African American students, are encouraged. There are liaison functions in place to assist undergraduates in academic need with the Learning Assistance Center and with the Martin Luther King and Marshall Mentoring programs, both of which enhance the university's retention efforts. Community outreach with a multicultural emphasis is encouraged through such activities as the Striving to Educate People (STEP) program that sends Shippensburg students to regional high schools and also brings at-risk secondary students to the university campus during the summer.
Two programs have been particularly productive. Since 1991, the "In Living Color" initiative, has used a student acting troop to dramatize intercultural relationships. The "Building Bridges" program focuses on small group discussions and interaction as a way to discuss issues of race and ethnicity openly and frankly. Building Bridges, which has served as a model for similar initiatives at other institutions, began in 1993 as a single experimental seminar and now employs trained students to facilitate over 75 sessions each semester, normally as a part of regular classes at the university.
The efforts of the Multicultural Student Affairs Office are often supported and supplemented by the work of the Women's Center, which seeks to promote equity for women across the university. Established in 1986, the center offers opportunities for male and female students, faculty and staff to participate in discussion groups and workshops and in volunteer work, films and lectures addressing such topics as sex-role stereotyping, networking and sexual assault. In conjunction with the Multicultural Student Affairs Office, the center encouraged the creation of a "Women of Color" group to assist in retention of students and staff and helped produce a video entitled "Black Women, White Women-Is Sisterhood Possible?" Simultaneously, a support group was established for black males. The center also provides individual and group counseling and a reference library on pertinent issues. It is headed by a full-time director, who had previously been three-quarter time, supported by a part-time secretary and two graduate assistants. In addition, educational equipment monies have been provided during the past three years that have greatly expanded the center's computer capabilities and its data base.
In recent years, the Women's Center has been especially active in promoting liaison with the faculty and with academic programming. It is assisting with a proposed revision of the university sexual harassment policy and procedures and works closely with the Women's Consortium, which is an active voluntary organization of faculty and staff women, to promote a broad range of educational opportunities, including the programs of the Women's Studies minor.
The university not only promotes understanding and appreciation of diversity through the Multicultural Student Affairs Office and the Women's Center but also through many of the functions of the United Campus Ministry and the Catholic Campus Ministry, which together serve approximately 500 Protestant and Roman Catholic students on campus. While remaining within the guidelines of separation of church and state, both organizations provide frequent interfaith services and dialogue, outreach opportunities and spiritual direction for the campus community. Among many other activities, they have held programs on world religions, organized field trips to the Holocaust Museum for Christian and Jewish students, worked for Habitat for Humanity both in Louisiana and in the local area, and supervised volunteer efforts in soup kitchens and nursing homes in the region. The ministries also provide speakers for classes and residence hall programs when asked by members of the campus community. Their facilities will be expanded in the near future with the completion of an Interfaith Chapel and Spiritual Center, which is being built with private funds and will be located close to campus.
The major non-athletic programs of the university for students outside the classroom are provided by the Office of Student Activities, which is housed in the Cumberland Union Building (CUB), a multipurpose facility that contains some administrative offices as well as the offices of the undergraduate and graduate Student Associations, the student-run bookstore and various student organizations, such as the weekly newspaper and the radio and television stations. It has greatly expanded its facilities in the past decade. A major addition in the early 1990s, financed by student activity fees, nearly doubled available space in the building and has allowed, at its peak during 1994/95, almost 137,000 people to utilize its meeting rooms during the academic year, a figure that does not include scheduled social activities such as films, dances and speakers. In 1996, renovations were completed to a small theater within the building, and work will began in 1999 on restoration and improvement of the original entrance to the facility.
The primary goal of the Office of Student Activities at Shippensburg is to promote student programming through the Activities Program Board (APB). Each year, the student leadership of the board receives formal training at local retreats and at national conferences and then plans, with the help of Student Affairs advisors, between 60 and 80 events each semester. It has a committee structure that handles many specific areas-for example, entertainment, concerts, minority affairs, cultural events and travel and recreation. Each January, the student population is surveyed for their preferences in programming, and these wishes are honored to the extent possible. The board works directly with the Multicultural Office to enhance diversity offerings and also consults with various university offices to plan such activities as freshman orientation, Homecoming, Parents and Family Day and other special events.
Of all of its goals, the most difficult for the APB to achieve has been providing quality weekend programming, a shortcoming noted in college-wide surveys. Efforts have been made throughout the decade to offer non-alcoholic dance nights, which have had mixed success. Similar results have followed the establishment of special "theme" events. These attempts, however, have not been discontinued, and a core of students has recently formed a subgroup of the entertainment committee with the goal of increasing the quality and quantity of weekend and evening activities.
Many of these students are or have been a part of Leader@SHIP, a joint effort of the Office of Student Activities and the Dean of Students established in 1995. The program seeks to foster leadership abilities through a series of workshops centered around such topics as conflict resolution, team building and communication, and it offers two tracks, one for emerging leaders and another for established ones. After a weak initial response, the program was reorganized in 1997 and was immediately more successful. During the 1997/98 academic year, 125 students enrolled in the program, 72 attended sessions on a regular basis, and 54 completed all of its requirements.
Career Development Center
The Cumberland Union Building is also home to the Career Development Center (CDC), which provides assistance to students in career planning and job search investigations and organizes visits by employers to campus. Since 1996, the center has had four major goals: to heighten awareness of its initiatives among students and alumni, to offer an extensive employer relations program, to provide a variety of career advisement techniques, and to make comprehensive career information available to students and alumni. These goals were established with the aid of a new Career Advisory Council that brought focus to the need for concrete mission and goals statements for the center and for added assessment instruments. Until that time, the center operated on a set of generally understood, but informal goals to meet student programming needs.
Efforts to raise awareness of the center's services among students and alumni have concentrated on the publication of a biweekly student newsletter and specialized programming for majors in specific academic departments. Over 5000 copies of the newsletter are distributed annually to students or by mail to alumni and faculty, and a recently developed publication for parents and family members is mailed to approximately 5,500 homes twice each year.
The center also provides career programming sessions for student groups and in the classroom for academic departments that request this service for their upper division students. In addition, the university has also recently begun an initiative, entitled the Career Education Program, for both first-year and other new students that will provide vocational information and will work in conjunction with the center. Individual career planning is accomplished through scheduled appointments, walk-in sessions and software packages, such as the guidance program, Discover.
The Career Development Center offers extensive employer relations programming to promote contacts for students and alumni. Over 75 organizations visit the campus annually to interview students, and post-interview evaluations indicate satisfaction among these employers with staff assistance and student performance. These assessments are published by the center in its yearly Recruitment Review. University students also participate in many job fairs and employment consortia in the region throughout the academic year. A recent example is the Central Pennsylvania Employment Consortium, which had approximately 120 employers present and drew over 500 students. In support of the job search process, the CDC maintains a hard-copy letter of reference file for students. Advisory board recommendations have initiated an attempt to upgrade and streamline these files through a scanning system to store letters and resumes electronically.
Other forms of counseling, as well as career options testing, are provided by the university Counseling Center. The center, located in Wright Hall, is staffed by four full-time professionals, who are also faculty members in the Department of Counseling, and a part-time psychiatrist. These numbers reflect recent dramatic increases in student demand for services; in 1992, the center had a complement of only two full-time equivalent faculty. The center provides scheduled appointments for individual students in need and a range of group programs on such issues as personal growth, eating disorders and positive self-concepts. In 1997, the identification and assistance of student victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse was added as a goal. The center's staff also supervises the work of the many graduate students who assist with various activities as part of their Master's program in counseling.
The Counseling Center has gone through considerable self-examination in recent years. A consultant was hired during the 1993/94 academic year to evaluate its purpose and functions, and this examination resulted in the separation of the center from the Counseling Department at the university, although the professional staff remained as members of the faculty. Previously, teaching faculty within the academic department had been assigned to the center on a rotating basis and had helped with the supervision of graduate students working with the center's programs. Discussions on the implementation of the terms of the division were lengthy and were only completed in 1997 with the creation of an agreement that meets the standards of the international accrediting agency for counseling services and also allows the professional counseling staff to be considered for occasional teaching assignments in the Department of Counseling.
Student Health Services
The physical health of Shippensburg students is the province of the university Student Health Services, which is housed in its own facility, the Etter Health Center. The center operates 24 hours a day and has a staff of nine registered nurses and nine part-time doctors. The latter are part of a contract for services with the Carlisle Hospital Emergency Medical Department, and several of the doctors are certified in internal medicine and pediatrics. The center is supervised by the Director of Health Services, a position created in 1996 to coordinate both medical services and preventive health programs at the institution.
In addition to providing approximately 14,830 patient contact hours during the 1997/98 academic year, Student Health Services offers a range of general health and wellness programs for students, including stress management workshops, blood pressure screenings and instruction in emergency care practices. Its nurses are given regular in-service training in such areas as diagnosing diabetes, meningitis and alcohol intoxication and are provided with out-service opportunities on a variety of medical conditions. One area of concern, however, has been survey results that indicate a level of student satisfaction with university health services below the national mean for similar institutions. Efforts are underway to review the existing data closely, to identify the exact problems and to respond appropriately.
The Financial Aid Office administers all state, federal and university grants, loans and work programs for students, a combined average of approximately $25.2 million annually. In addition, the office is responsible for the administration of all university scholarships and veteran's educational benefits. It has a staff of three professionals and three and one/half clerical employees.
A number of improvements have been made in the past five years, based on lower than average satisfaction ratings from students in regional and national surveys. Student criticism generally focused on the timeliness of aid awards, and this has been addressed by a commitment to streamline file review and document request procedures to facilitate earlier award letters. Additionally, the office applied for and was granted participation in the Federal Quality Assurance Program and simultaneously enrolled the university in the National Student Loan Data System. Since 1996, the office has upgraded both its computer equipment and its student data bases and has established walk-in hours for questions as well as beginning to publish a quarterly newsletter. Renovations to the physical appearance of the office have also been made. As a result of these developments, the most recent assessments have shown marked improvement.
Department of Athletics
Students are also served by the Department of Athletics, whose programs are supported by activity fees collected by the Student Association. The department includes 18 intercollegiate sports and is responsible for the coordination of recreation, intramural and club sports, cheerleading and sports medicine services. Its staff of 62 coaches, directors and assistants, however, are university employees and are paid by the institution. The staff is headed by an athletic and an associate athletic director and serves approximately 600 student athletes as well as the entire student population through its auxiliary activities.
Facilities supervised by the Department of Athletics have seen considerable recent expansion. The sports medicine program has been upgraded and renovations have been made to the field house and the football stadium. An outdoor recreation area, which contains playing fields, a lighted walking and jogging track and a street hockey pavilion, was completed in 1998 using student financing. The department has also added a full-time director of intramurals and recreation and a coordinator of academic support services for student athletes. Intercollegiate teams are divided between eight teams for men and ten teams for women, and narrowing the gap between male and female scholarship aid has been a priority in the department for several years. Compliance with the provisions of Title IX and gender equality in athletics are evaluated annually, and the department uses the NCAA Institutional Self-Study Guide to assess its total program yearly.
Dean of Students
The Office of the Dean of Students provides a variety of important services and programs to the university. It is served by eight professionals-the dean and seven associate deans-and 141 other employees, including residence hall directors and graduate, resident and desk assistants. The major component of the office is supervision of the campus housing system that accommodates approximately 2,350 students in seven traditional residence halls and one facility comprised of individual suites.
The residence hall staff follows a community development model that emphasizes the importance of creating living/learning environments. Toward this end, students may choose among a number of lifestyle options. In addition to coeducational facilities, one residence hall provides an intensive quiet environment, and floors in three halls are reserved for students who agree not to use alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Majors in given disciplines can be assigned to the same residential facility. Efforts have also been made in the past five years to improve the selection and training of residence hall staff. These individuals are now chosen after interviews that emphasize community building, and their compensation has been improved. Minority representation among the residence directors and desk and resident assistants has been increased considerably since 1993. Nearly 20 percent of desk and resident assistants and 13 percent of residence directors are minority students. An extensive training program, which includes cultural diversity issues, is in place. Residence hall students also receive multicultural programming at orientation and throughout the academic year. A recent example is the "Art of Being" series that features the traditions, artwork, foods, etc. of a particular culture. Eight such programs are offered each year, one per residence hall, with approximately 650 total students attending.
The residence halls are maintained and renovated on a five-year cycle that is financed by a sinking fund generated from room fees. Recent improvements have included a computerized door access system, security cameras and increased study lounge space. New custodial and repair staff has also been added. The most significant change, however, has been the installation of television cable, upgraded electrical and telephone service, and fiber optic wiring for direct mainframe computer and Internet access for each resident. This was completed in December, 1998 at a cost of $5 million.
In addition to the housing system, the Office of the Dean of Students performs a variety of other functions. It supervises the campus Greek system of twelve fraternities and eight sororities, whose policies have been revised to reflect the recommendations of a State System of Higher Education Review Board. It also coordinates volunteer outreach activities, in which approximately 1,637 students contributed over 6,000 hours of service to the local community during the 1996/97 academic year. The office maintains a peer AIDS education program and an extensive drug and alcohol education effort. The latter initiative, the Connection Program, is coordinated by an associate dean and involved 246 students in 1996/97. An associate dean is now assigned to assist international students at the university. The office has also established, through the Residence Hall Association, a popular escort/safe ride service that is used primarily by women students in the evenings, and it has redesigned and expanded the campus orientation program for first-year students.
Office of the Vice President
The overall supervision and evaluation of the Office of the Dean of Students, the other departments in the division and the independently-contracted university Food Service is the responsibility of the Vice President of Student Affairs. The annual assessment process, which culminates with the Vice President, has produced most of the new directions for students within the division, such as the outdoor student recreation facilities, the rewiring of the residence halls, increases in multicultural programming, and the alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs. The Office of the Vice President has also made a number of recent commitments to and changes in divisional personnel based upon recommendations that emerged from the evaluation process. A professional development committee has been formed that offers workshops and other programming on subjects pertinent to goals of the division, and personnel have been reassigned to administer the new Career Education Program for freshmen and to coordinate student health services and academic support for athletes. Also, in an effort to improve the sharing of resources and the timeliness of responses to crises, the position of Associate Vice President of Student Affairs was established in the fall of 1998. The new associate vice president will supervise the counseling, health, women's and career development centers and the Career Education Program, and will have responsibility for professional development and the continuing assessment activities of the division. For hierarchical balance within the division, the dean of students will be given the title of associate vice president as well. Viewed in total, the Division of Student Affairs provides quality support and service to our students and to the entire university community.